So You Want to Have a Baby. as Natalie Massenet Becomes a Mother Again at 52 She Joins the Growing Number of Parents Having Babies with surrogates.Samuel Fishwickreports on a New Frontier for Fertility

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 28, 2017 | Go to article overview

So You Want to Have a Baby. as Natalie Massenet Becomes a Mother Again at 52 She Joins the Growing Number of Parents Having Babies with surrogates.Samuel Fishwickreports on a New Frontier for Fertility


Byline: Samuel Fishwick

WHETHER an Olivia, Asher or an Arya, there's one born every minute, but for some the journey is a long one. "Erik and I are so proud and happy to welcome to the world our much longed-for addition to our family and our first son," Net-a-Porter founder Dame Natalie Massenet wrote on Instagram this week. "Jet was born [on] September 15th in Los Angeles and came into our lives with the most generous help from our surrogate."

But parents who want to have children this way such as Massenet, 52, far outnumber the surrogates themselves. "Demand is on the increase," says Dr Suvir Venkataraman of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic. "But one of the limiting factors is actually finding surrogates." Need, he says, far outstrips supply.

Partly this is because it's illegal to advertise for a surrogate in this country (though shadowy sites do exist). "Between 80 and 90 per cent of people going into these extraordinary relationships are therefore strangers at first," says Dr Nick Raine-Fenning, an associate professor of reproductive medicine at Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham (the other 10 per cent being between friends or family). Instead, only Britain's three non-profit agencies can help couples find a match: Brilliant Beginnings, Surrogacy UK and COTS (the last is in fact so over-subscribed it's not currently accepting new applications).

There's the American option, where paid surrogacy is both legal and prevalent in many states and where many large surrogacy agencies say international clients provide the bulk of their business (there are more than 2,000 babies born through gestational surrogacy in the US every year, while Thailand and Mexico are also popular destinations).

International would-be parents face stumping up between PS120,000 and PS140,000 in the US. Here, the going rate is between PS12,000 and PS18,000 to cover expenses.

According to Helen Prosser, co-owner of Brilliant Beginnings and legal practice NGA Law, the intended parent is legally obliged to cover the surrogate's expenses but much larger figures can be approved by the magistrate for money lost in earnings and further costs. IVF can cost between PS8,000 and PS12,000 per cycle. Yet "money is never the starting point", argues Raine-Fenning. "It's not a fertility treatment. It's specifically for people who cannot conceive a child of their own."

Naturally, this is unlikely to put off those who are willing to exhaust their options. "The actual number of people looking in the UK is huge," says Prosser. Although there were only 350 parental orders (the legal paperwork needed to adopt a surrogate child) in 2016, Prosser argues this is the tip of the iceberg. Nevertheless, none of the NHS's Clinical Commissioning Groups currently fund surrogacy.

Around 40 per cent of Brilliant Beginnings' client base are gay men in same-sex relationships, while around half are straight couples who "have had years of failed IVF" or cannot carry a child for medical reasons, such as having had chemotherapy.

Then there are older people who want a second try at a family or met their partner in later life. Former Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones became a mother for the first time earlier this year at the age of 65, although it is not known if she used a surrogate. Prosser adds: "We've got single dads and some single women, although very few, who just haven't met the right person and want to have a child on their own."

Two types of surrogacy exist. In traditional surrogacy the biological mother carries a surrogate's egg which is inseminated with the father's sperm. This can be done either at home, using a donor insemination kit, or in a clinic. With gestational surrogacy, where the surrogate carries a baby she is not genetically related to, the egg from the intended mother or donor is fertilised through IVF and then placed inside her at a fertility clinic.

If cost makes surrogacy prohibitive, the rarity of that "most generous help" is also a stumbling block. …

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